"Extremely painful hysteroscopy"

About: Frimley Park Hospital / Gynaecology

(as the patient),

Appalling experience!

I had a hysteroscopy in February 2014 and have to say it was the most painful experience of my life. I was 65. I had been fitted into a cancelled appointment, for which I was grateful.

I am not an anxious person and I'm not a wimp where pain is concerned. I delivered 2 children on gas and air, but I shouted out in pain and was reduced to tears both during and after this procedure and on occasion felt I was going to faint.

It was commenced without any anaesthetic or analgesia, even though the Nurse Hysteroscopist performing it knew I hadn’t taken any pain relieving analgesics such as ibuprofen because I hadn’t received the information in the post advising me to do so. It soon became clear that my cervix was very tightly closed (evidently because menopause had occurred approx 20 years previously) and I was in excruciating pain.

Anaesthetic gel was applied to the cervix followed by a local anaesthetic. This procedure was far from pleasant and not without pain. (I didn’t know at the time that at least 10 minutes following administration was needed for this to be effective, but this time lapse didn’t occur and the procedure was started again almost immediately). Entry through my cervix was exceedingly painful, way beyond what would have been controlled by ibuprofen, and I felt I was going to faint.

Eventually access to my uterus was achieved and the polyp was in view. Then the saline solution was introduced causing a searing pain through my abdomen and up my side making me shout out and cry. Because of the pain I was experiencing the water pressure used had to be lower than normal which meant that the biopsy sample was very small and there was a chance it wouldn’t be sufficient for the purpose. It wasn’t possible to remove the polyp as planned. During this time of unbelievable pain the two other nurses in the room were attempting to make light hearted conversation with me, presumably to distract me from the pain and to ensure I was still conscious!

At the finish I lay there and cried. I felt that I had been subjected to a barbaric procedure. I was escorted by one of the nurses to another waiting area where I was given tea and biscuits. She told me she was amazed I had managed to tolerate the procedure given the pain I was in.

I sat there until I stopped shaking and felt able to walk back to find my husband who took me home. I retreated under a blanket for the rest of the day in a state of shock having been totally violated by this abusive procedure.

I had been told that I might feel some discomfort during the entry through the cervix. I can't remember what else was said but I was aware that I could have stopped the procedure at any time. However, I was so keen to find out if I had cancer, I couldn't bear the thought of waiting for more time to elapse, especially as I had no idea how long this would be or what other torturous procedures might occur.

The hospital was Frimley Park Hospital in Frimley, Surrey. Their information, which I didn’t receive beforehand states "The procedure takes about five to ten minutes to complete..." Mine was much longer. Also "Before attending for the procedure it is advisable to have eaten breakfast/lunch." Luckily I hadn't as I'm sure I would have been sick. Also "taking Paracetamol or 400mg of Ibuprofen one hour before the procedure will help to alleviate any cramping pains that can be experienced during and after the procedure. You do not require any anaesthetic for the procedure, but you should bring someone with you who can drive you home." I didn’t experience cramping pains. I experienced the worst pain of my life!

I felt quite sorry for the person carrying out the procedure because she knew the pain I was in but also how desperate I was to find out what was wrong with me. I even thanked her at the end for persevering!

When I returned to my GP in 2015 to ask him if it was OK for the polyp to still be there (answer no!), he was surprised when I refused to undergo another hysteroscopy without general anaesthetic. He was also surprised to hear that I had experienced pain as he hadn’t heard of it before. I pointed out to him that he was only hearing it from me because I had to return to him to talk about the continuing problem. If the full extent of pain experienced by women was known, I am sure the people undertaking this procedure would be surprised and appalled.

I am disgusted that women aren’t fully informed that they might experience severe pain. I am also dismayed that they aren’t offered choices regarding pain control before or during the procedure. Until that day arrives, I'm telling all my women friends never to have this procedure without a general anaesthetic.

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Response from Claire Marshall, Head of Patient Involvement, Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust

picture of Claire Marshall

Dear Ellie

Thank you for taking the time to share your experience from Feb 2014 with me. I am sorry that you found the procedure so painful and difficult, It would be really helpful for us to be able to learn from your experience if you could contact my colleagues in PALs with some more information so we can look into it further. Please could you email them your details on palsfrimleypark@fhft.nhs.uk?

There should also be an alternative way for you to have any procedures like this if you need them with adequate pain relief.

I would be very grateful if you would help us improve things for others in the future.

Kind Regards


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